Mon | Feb 18, 2019

Citizens mark anniversary of victory day in 1979 revolution

Published:Tuesday | February 12, 2019 | 12:04 AM
Hundreds of thousands of Iranians poured out on to the streets of Tehran and other cities and towns across the country, marking the date 40 years ago that is considered victory day in the country’s 1979 Islamic Revolution.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani speaks during a ceremony celebrating the 40th anniversary of the Islamic Revolution at the Azadi, (Freedom), Square in Tehran, Iran, yesterday.
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TEHRAN (AP):

Waving Iranian flags, chanting “Death to America” and burning US and Israeli flags, hundreds of thousands of people poured out on to the streets across Iran yesterday, marking the date that’s considered victory day in the country’s 1979 Islamic Revolution.

On February 11 that year, Iran’s military stood down after days of street battles, allowing the revolutionaries to sweep across the country while the government of US-backed Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi resigned and the Islamic Republic was born.

In Tehran, despite the rain, crowds streamed in from the capital’s far-flung neighbourhoods to mass in the central Azadi, or Freedom, Square, waving Iranian flags and chanting “Death to America” — standard fare at rallies across Iran.

Chants of “Death to Israel” and “Death to Britain” followed, and demonstrators burned US and Israeli flags. Iranian state TV, which said millions participated in the celebrations, ran archive footage of the days of the uprising and played revolutionary songs. It later broadcast footage showing crowds across the country of 80 million.

The six-mile-long downtown Enghelab, or Revolution Street, was decorated with huge balloons as loudspeakers blared out revolutionary and nationalist songs.

Every year, the anniversary festivities start on February 1 — the day Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini returned from France after 14 years in exile to become the supreme leader as Shiite clerics took power. The celebrations continue for 10 days, climaxing on February 11.

This year’s anniversary comes as Iran grapples with the aftermath of United States President Donald Trump’s decision last May to withdraw from the 2015 nuclear deal and restore tough US sanctions.

Speaking from a podium in central Tehran, President Hassan Rouhani addressed the crowds for nearly 45 minutes, lashing out at Iran’s enemies — America and Israel — and claiming their efforts to “bring down” the country through sanctions will not succeed.

“The presence of people in this celebration means that plots by the enemies ... have been defused,” Rouhani said. “They will not achieve their ill-omened aims.”

In the backdrop to Monday’s marches, the military displayed Iranian-made missiles, which authorities showcase every year during anniversary celebrations. The missiles have a range of up to 2,000 kilometres (1,250 miles), placing Israel and US military bases within range.

Over the past decade, Iran has frequently test-fired and displayed missiles, sent several short-lived satellites into orbit, and, in 2013, launched a monkey into space.

The ballistic missile tests have angered the United States, which fears they are part of an effort to develop a nuclear-weapons capability, something Iran insists it has never sought. The 2015 nuclear agreement urged Iran to cease such missile tests but did not forbid them outright.

“We do not and we will not ask permission for producing any type of missiles from anybody,” Rouhani said in his speech Monday, though he stressed that Iran would “continue constructive engagement” with the international community.

Rouhani also promised that Iran would overcome its economic hardships, worsened by the restored US sanctions.